Video games have a slightly strange relationship with dimensionality, where we are able to explore 3 dimensional space in a 2 dimensional medium. Before 3 dimensional engines, we were only able to explore 2 dimensional space on a 2 dimensional medium. However, this post looks at how video games can help us to explore aspects of the 4th dimension in the 2 dimensional medium.
Without looking too hard or trying to explain the 4th dimension, we will be looking at the use of Space and Time mechanics in Super Hot and how this could be considered an emulation of the 4th dimension.
First, let’s wrap our heads around this: Mario 2D is a game, Doom (1993) is a 2D game with 3D elements, while Doom (2016) is a 3D game and all of these are displayed on a 2D surface. Even with VR and MR, we are tricking our brains into believing that the 2 dimensional surface we are seeing is really 3 dimensional space. Arguably, these 3 dimensional spaces do exist within the computer itself, but we can all agree that we are only able to view and explore these spaces on a 2 dimensional screen.
The 4th dimension, however, has different meaning in different areas of studies. In mathematics, it is concerned with geometric space and can be generated by applying the rules of vectors to geometry in a space with 4 dimensions. In art, the the dimensionalities were concerned with leaving the theoretical “plane and entering space”, while others like the cubists aimed to capture all the factions of 3D space on a 2D surface. Philosophy is concerned with the theories like that of the multiverse and the hypothetical existence or parallel universes. Physics sees the 4th dimension as as an interwoven spacetime continuum, where time is not independent of motion. It is this continuum, this relationship between motion and time, that Super Hot explores.
Upon first playing Super Hot, we are introduced to a Matrix-esque mysterious contact talking to us through a computer and connecting us to some “company’s site” to play the game. Silhouette, colour, shadow and movement show players their dimension and contribute to the spacial navigation. Super Hot forces you to calculate all of your possible actions before moving and once players pick up the fundamental space time mechanic, the game becomes fast paced and intuitive. Time only moves when you do, time is not independent of motion. The game’s core mechanic relies on you to move before the game can proceed, your motion within the space determines time. Super Hot emulates this continuum, where time is not independent of movement.
Super Hot could be seen as a creative interpretation of the 4th dimension and the relationship between space and time. In conclusion, much like Doom being a 2 dimensional game with 3 dimensional elements, Super Hot could be considered a 3 dimensional game with 4th dimensional elements, shown to us in a 2 dimensional screen. Again, much like Doom being a pioneer of 3 dimensional games, games like Super Hot could be seen as pioneers, helping our understanding of the 4th dimension.